" There are some remedies worse than the disease." - Publius Syrus
I asked Sumaya if she knows of all the families and their situations here in this area. She didn't.
"If you get organized like what I saw in the last town I was in, help will be easier to come to you. Sumaya, why don't I put you in charge here of keeping track of all the people in this area?" I asked.
She was ready. We took out paper and made a list of everything she will need to get from the neighboring families:
Name, address, area in Syria, # in family, what their needs are.
"I will be back in a couple of days and if you can work on this, then I can help better. There is much to be done here and you can be a hero for your people too." I said.
She and her mom agreed and promised to start the list of refugee families in Rehanliye. I said good bye to them and went with Issam and Zack to see the boy with the missing leg.
"Don't take your camera out till we get inside." Issam warned me. I heeded his warning. This clinic was not his but the boy was the boy he brought here to get help. Issam plays a huge role in the Syrian Free Army and helped free Idlib from the attacks of the government. Its important to note that for months, the people continued to peacfully protest and many kept getting killed. Each time a family would go to the funeral of somebody who got killed, that family would get shot at as well. If somebody got injured and tried getting out, the government would not let them until they died in the ambulance. The situation got so bad that the free army was formed. Idlib was a huge victory for the Free Army since its a bordering town to Turkey. Because of this, refugees are able to pass through and escape, or seek medical attention outside of Syria. Had Idlib not become free, the government would do what it did to Hama and other towns in Syria, not allow any medicine or aid to come through.
THE BOY WITH THE MISSING LEG
We got to the gate of the clinic in Rehanliye. It had all sorts of casualties sitting in rooms, hallways, or in the garden. The guard asked why were there. Issam explained that we were here to visit the boy with the missing leg.
(SIDE NOTE: I Hope I never have that as my first name: the girl with the missing leg. IM quite happy with "The girl with the cowboy hat")
"No cameras" he said and then pointed to my backpack. Issam said don't worry, we just want to visit him.
We got into the place and Issam waited outside with the guard. Zack walked into a room with men in it and found him sitting on a chair. He picked up the entire chair and we smuggled him into another room so we could talk to him. His brother was in the other room with him.
"Who are you?" the 7 year old boy asked me.
"The man from America who visited you before (The man with the medicine) sent me to tell you he is working on your visa so that he can bring you to the states and we can try getting you a new leg."
"Film him, film him" Zack said.
I took out my cell phone and told him I need to take a video so we can try to get you more support. This was the truth.
I filmed him talking and at the end, I asked him what he wants from me. He stayed silent for a bit, and then looked up at me with eyes that make you want to cry "Just a leg. I just want my leg back."
If you remember back to my first post, this is the boy who ran back out when he heard the planes were coming so he could get his mom. His leg got taken out with an explosive.
He asked when he could get his leg back. "I don't know. The man in America is working on it for you." I said. I left him, hoping it was not a false promise. "These things take time," I told him.
CLOSE TO THE BORDER
After visiting the young boy, Issam asked if I wanted to see what the refugee camps looked like from the border. We were in a restricted area and drove close to where the camps were. They were right at the border entry way. We passed farms and villagers and the camps were in clear sight on top of the hill near the military base. On our way in, an ambulance with sirens passed us while another ambulance coming from the other direction passed it. Its non-stop over here.
"The Turks are very kind." Issam said. "They have been helping tremendously with the ambulances and taking the injured from the border to the clinics we set up.
I was able to get pictures of the situation of the camps from far away. We had to turn around before it got too risky.
The road to the refugees was the title of my blog. This was the image I pictured. There were the camps, so close yet so far away. I would have to cross the border to get in. I’m going to have to think about that.
2 hours later, Hussam called me on my way back to Gazientep and told me that the mountainside we were looking at just got bombed. 11 people just died in the time I left till now. I’m typing this draft up on the bus.
THEY POISONED MY LEG SO THEY COULD JUST CHOP IT OFF
After the mini trip to see what the camps looked like. I went back to the first clinic from yesterday and asked if there was anyone who wanted to share their story.
"Why?" they said.
Well, the more people who are aware of the situation, the better chance I have of getting you help," I said.
One 21 year old had a sad story. He was in the hospital over in Idlib shortly after the killings started. His leg was shot and was recovering in the hospital. The hospital was inundated with people and he had to seek help elsewhere. He went to Turkey and when he was admitted into the hospital, the doctor said that they couldn't do anything for him. In Syria, the doctors had told him its 70% recovery if they did surgery on his leg. Thats what he came to Turkey to do. To have the surgery. The doctor asked him if he had enough money for the surgery. He didn't. The doctor gave him something for his leg and immediately got worse. The doctor pointed to it and said, "See, we have to cut it off."
"It was cheaper to cut off my leg. They told me that they would only cut off my foot and when I woke up, they had chopped everything to above my knees. Now what?"
After my day of visiting injured men, I got back on a microbus to take my 3.5 hr journey back to Gazientep to finish my work over there. I knew I would have to come back to Rehanliye to get some help to that area as well. I was also planning on telling Yaman to take Aid to that region as well. I can’t imagine being strong and healthy and having 2 legs and 2 arms and then all of a sudden being stripped away of your mobility and kAs soon as I got on the microbus, the fun began.
WHATS WRONG WITH YOUR EYEBROWS?
I sat down and rested my head against the window. Reyanliya, The shanty town I was leaving, had no definition to it and had no height to it. No tall buildings like the other places I had seen so far in Turkey. Each building was a box of faded, dust painted, colors. All it was missing was a tumbleweed bouncing its way through the street.
I barely had time to absorb what the past 24 hours had been like when all of a sudden, I felt my hand being opened and trail mix being shoved into it. A charismatic young Turkish girl poked and prodded me like I was a new alien that landed off of mars and wanted to see if I bit or not. My broken understanding of Turkish leads me to believe that the following conversation occurred:
"Where are you from?" she said, her kohl lined eyes, and iron flattened hair in close proximity to my face were well beyond the norm of personal space. Her teeth were a bit messed up and brown, probably from all the cigarettes. (Remember, everyone smokes here. The first thing you get offered, before tea even, when you go to someone's house, is a cigarette. The shock on people's face when you say you don't smoke is as if you told people you brush your teeth with toilet water.) Speaking of water, she then shoved a brand new water bottle in my other hand.
"Thank you," I said, overwhelmed and amused by the sincere and overjoyous offering of sharing her food and water with me. "I'm Syrian," I said trying not to give away Im from America too. The less people who know, the better.
"You are beautiful" she told me.
"So are you," I said.
"You like my hair?" She asked, motioning for me to touch her straight hair.
I touched her hair, approvingly.
"Whats wrong with your eyebrows?" she then asked. Thats the number one question I get when people get close enough to me to see my eyebrows. I used to be very very sensitive of the topic but I now see that I could have way worse habits.
"When I am worried or bored, or my fingers are not doing anything, I automatically pull out my eyebrows. I don't know when I'm doing it and I can't help it." I wish people really understood what its like living with this condition. Its not a big deal of a condition but its an actual "Physiologically named" thing. I have no control over it and don't realize when I'm doing it. That’s why I have to color in my eyebrows with a pencil- not by choice.
"Ahhh she said," flipping around quickly again to tell the others. "Are you from Aleppo?" she asked.
"No, Sham (Damascus)," I said.
"Ahhh, Sham!" she said, turning around in her chair to look at the older lady and man who were traveling with her. She rambunctiously spoke Turkish to them and then turned around putting her two index fingers together and saying things to me. She then pointed to a ring. I got it.
"Hayir (no)," I said and then made the motion that one makes when you are full or don't want anymore. No thank you to marriage.
"You like Rehanliye?" She asked, eagerly anticipating my response.. She fiddled with her pink cell phone while waiting.
"Evet (yes)" I said. She flipped around and excitedly reported the great news. Victory. I liked her village. She would marry me off then.
"Uncle. You. Him. Marry." she said, and quickly got her cell phone ready to take down my number. "I take your number," she said.
I quickly flipped through my English-Turkish dictionary to find the word "Divorced". That would scare them off.
It didn't. She was excited to inform me that her mom was divorced as well and that her mom fought in Aleppo with the Syrians. I turned around to look at her mom. She looked a bit rough around the edges, no scarf, and wrinkles and a scar that told of recent tales. The girls acted like a high school girl would act around the football team.
I asked her if I could take a picture with her.
"NO" she was adamant. SHe then shoved more trail mix in my hand.
"Okay, no problem." She took my Turkish cell phone number over excitedly even though I told her I was not interested, and that’s where the conversation ended.
We arrived in Kiricich so I could catch my connection back to Gazientep.
GETTING LOST IN GAZIENTEP
After the 2.5 hour bus ride back to Gazientep, I pulled out my crumbled piece of paper and looked at the two street names I had on it. One was of the office that the Syrian Organization operates from and one was for the place I was staying in. The street name I had for that was more of a general name, somewhere near the place I was staying and not the exact street name itself. I really had no idea where I was staying. It was a small studio of one of the guy's that works in the organization. He lets people stay there randomly. I had some idea of where it was but wasn't really clear on the name.
I took the first green bus going in the general direction of the area I needed to be in. I asked the bus driver where the two locations were. He told me that this bus went to Garagoz office street. I hopped on. He told me when to get off. I got off.
I asked a guy to tell me how to get to the other address. He pointed straight then right. I walked around the corner and then took the next bus in that direction, asking people on the bus if they had heard of that place. It was dark, and it was my first time riding the bus around that town alone. Gazientep is a huge city, as big as Los Angeles. The bus driver told me we arrived at the place and I got off. IT looked nothing like the place I was staying at.
I asked two girls. They spoke to me in what seemed like gibberish, then took me into a pastry shop and sat me down. The guy brought tea out.
Tea? I don't want tea. I want to go home.
The two men in the pastry shop were intrigued by what I was doing there. They wanted to help me get home. They argued over where that area was then called me a taxi.
"Just 5 minutes," the pastry guy said. 5 minutes became half an hour. In the meantime, they tried figuring out my story. I said I needed to leave and got up. I also didn't have a good feeling about it for some reason. I decided not to take the taxi they had called for me. My red flag was that the guy called the taxi driver or whoever that person was on the phone. Then as soon as he saw that I had a cell phone, he got back on the phone again and said something. It could have been fine, it could have been anything, or it could have been "she has a cell phone". I don't know.
I left the pastry shop and walked around the corner. I didn't like the area I was in and all the shops closed early in this part of town. A sketchy guy asked me if I needed help. I said no and kept walking. He followed along so I walked into a store and waited on him to pass.
I finally came to a street with loud music coming out of the room,. THe guys standing in front asked me what I needed. I showed them the paper. They scratched their heads and asked me questions really quickly in Turkish.
"Umlamadum," I replied, which means "I don't understand"" in Turkish.
They started arguing with each other and then more people from the wedding came out. They all started grabbing my paper to see who knew where that was. Then they got a Syrian guy on the phone for me.
"Are you okay?" the Syrian guy said on the other end of the line.
"I'm fine, just trying to find my way back." I said.
"Okay don't worry, I’m coming now to see what you need."
About two minutes later, a car and a moving truck pulled up. A Syrian looking man stepped out, with a very college-professor look to him.
"Your not from Syria." was the first thing the man said to me when he stepped out of the car.
"Yes I am, I was just born in America." I said.
"What is your family name?" he asked. I told him my family name and he said that he was very familiar with it. "The place you are going is 45 minutes from here. That’s why nobody knows where your street is." he said.
I was shocked. I thought the bus driver dropped me off at the location.
"I can drop you off but as you can see I'm helping my brother move." he said pointing to the moving truck. "I can drop you off at home after if you like." He said.
"I can help you move if you want." I offered. He started laughing. "Okay if you like."
He said. Just then a bus was approaching and he noticed it was the exact bus I needed.
"Get on this bus," he said. It’s exactly where you need to go. The bus pulled up, he exchanged some words with the bus driver and then the bus driver looked at me and then smiled. If I had a grandpa, he would be it. The man spoke a few Arabic words here and there. He dropped all the people off first then pulled me up to my house. I was thankful for all the help I got and for finally resting. I was still somewhat recovering from the 2 previous nights of a flue and ear infection.
Its funny how in countries like this, it’s everyone's business if you are lost or alone. It’s a weird sight around here for a woman to be by herself.
I opened the door to my place to find another girl staying there. "OH by the way, I'm letting a random Turkish girl stay in your room too." Hisham told me.
"Okay no problem."
IT was a problem. She smokes up a storm, inside the studio that is the size of a parking space. I get to choose, either I shut the window to lesson the icy breeze and fumigate myself or open the window, be cold, and breathe easier. I choose fresh air and more layers. I grabbed my scarves, extra pants, extra shirts, wool socks, my bear beanie, and everything else I could find and got into bed.